As a result of recent changes in legislation, it is a requirement for victims of domestic abuse to provide evidence of such abuse before they can apply for Legal Aid and this often takes the form of a letter from their GP.
It has been reported that in some cases, GP’s are charging victims of domestic abuse up to £175 for a letter to provide to the Legal Aid Agency before they can access public funding.
A letter, which has been signed by 16 police and crime commissioners, calls on Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt to do away with the “callous, insensitive and unjust” practice of charging victims of domestic violence for a letter from their GP to prove such abuse. The letter also calls on Liz Truss, Justice Secretary, to scrap the requirement for the letter altogether.
Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester Police Commissioner has said “It should not be a privilege for victims of domestic abuse to gain legal aid. There should be no further burden on victims to chase a letter to verify their claim. The government needs to scrap this fee by bringing the service under NHS funding or – better still – scrap the need for the letter entirely”.
Sarah Green, co-director of the End of Violence Against Women campaign welcomes the intervention from the Police and Crime Commissioners stating, “without access to legal aid, some women are being denied access to justice and protection for themselves and their families. It is unreasonable to put a ‘certifying’ duty on doctors and many women would not, in any case, disclose domestic abuse to their GP”.
Tom Watson, Deputy Labour Leader has requested an urgent meeting with ministers – which he hopes will put an end to this practice.
If you have been the victim of domestic abuse and would like legal advice from a solicitor, please contact Farleys’ family law team on 0845 287 0939 or complete our online contact form. Our solicitors have extensive experience of dealing with cases of domestic abuse in the confidential and sensitive manner required of such cases.